A man, who was on death row after being convicted by high court of raping and murdering an eight-year-old girl in Rajasthan over five years ago, has got a reduced sentence of life term from the Supreme Court which acquitted him of the charge of sexually assaulting the minor.
The court observed that since the man was acquitted for offence of raping the girl under provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, it was not a "fit case" to impose death penalty on him as he was neither a habitual offender nor having any criminal background.
"Be that as it may, since the offence of rape is not proved and as the offence of murder is proved beyond reasonable doubt, the accused (Prahlad) is liable to be convicted for the offence under section 302 (murder) IPC," a bench of justices N V Ramana, M M Shantanagoudar and M R Shah said.
Prahlad was awarded capital punishment by the trial court in September 2015 after being convicted for the offences of sexual assault under the POCSO Act and murder under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The Rajasthan High Court in September 2016 had confirmed the trial court's judgement and upheld the death penalty given to him in the case which was lodged in July 2013.
According to the police, in July 2013, the accused had taken away the victim on the pretext of giving her chocolates from a shop.
Later, her body was found after which her father had lodged an FIR against Prahlad on the allegations of rape and murder.
Prahlad had approached the apex court challenging the high court's verdict on the grounds that there was "no evidence" against him.
The top court, in its verdict, held that there was "ample material" against the accused to convict him for murdering the girl but the evidence relating to offence of penetrative sexual assault was not reliable.
"The trial court as well as the high court have not gone into the depth of the evidence relating to offence of penetrative sexual assault in detail. Certain casual observations are made which are not supported by the evidence led by the prosecution," the bench said.
The top court, while sparing him from death penalty, said there was every probability that he could be reformed and rehabilitated.
It said, "The judgment of the trial court as well as the high court convicting the accused for the offences under sections 3 and 4 of the POCSO Act and imposing capital punishment on him stands set aside.
"However, for the offence under section 302 (murder) IPC, the accused is sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life."
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